How to unlock your BlackBerry from O2, Orange, Three, T-Mobile or Vodafone

October 18th, 2012

All of the UK’s major operators will allow you to unlock your BlackBerry smartphone.

If you purchased a BlackBerry smartphone in the UK (such as the BlackBerry Bold, the BlackBerry Curve or the BlackBerry Torch), it may be network-locked. This means that you will only be able to use it on the network that you originally bought it from. You will need to unlock your BlackBerry first if you wish to switch to a different network, use a cheap SIM card whilst abroad or if you wish to pass your old BlackBerry on to a friend or family member. Having an unlocked BlackBerry device will also allow you to take advantage of cheap SIM-only deals which could save you up to £200 per year on your phone bill.

In this article, we discuss how to unlock a UK-purchased BlackBerry smartphone. We’ll discuss how to find out if your handset is locked, how to obtain the “IMEI Code” that is required for unlocking and how you can go about unlocking your smartphone. We’ll also discuss the costs of unlocking your BlackBerry and whether it is possible to unlock your BlackBerry for free.

What are the benefits of unlocking my BlackBerry?

There are multiple benefits to unlocking your BlackBerry smartphone:

  • You’ll be able to use your BlackBerry on a different network and you can take advantage of some super-cheap SIM only deals. All of the UK’s major networks including Three, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone offer SIM only tariffs for BlackBerry devices from as little as £10/month. These tariffs come with airtime and a subscription to services such as BlackBerry e-mail and BBM: however the tariff does not come with a new phone (hence the lower price). Be careful to pick a BlackBerry SIM Only tariff if you’d like to use BlackBerry e-mail, BBM or you’d like to browse the internet – basic SIM Only tariffs will only allow you to call and text. Some networks will allow you to add BlackBerry featuresto your plan for an additional £5/month if your tariff does not currently support it.
  • You’ll be able to use a local SIM card whilst you’re abroad. It can often be expensive to use your mobile phone abroad with your UK SIM card inside. Whilst some data roaming bundles exist for travel within the EU, you’ll often find it cheaper to use a local SIM card (particularly on long trips). Please be aware that the internet, e-mail and BBM functionality of BlackBerry devices will not work on all SIM cards: you’ll need a tariff with BlackBerry support. Whilst it can be fairly trivial to obtain a SIM card abroad, it may be substantially harder to find a SIM card with full access to BlackBerry services.
  • You can pass your old BlackBerry onto a friend or family member when you upgrade your own device. If you unlock your device first, they will be able to use it on the mobile network of their choice. We recommend unlocking your device before passing it on – it is much easier for the original owner of a phone to unlock it due to security checks.

Is it legal to unlock my BlackBerry?

Yes, it is perfectly allowed and legal to unlock a mobile phone handset. Official unlocking methods are provided by all of the UK’s major mobile operators for BlackBerry devices. You will be able to unlock your BlackBerry upon request but there may be a small charge in doing so. This is typically no more than £20.

How can I tell whether my BlackBerry is locked?

Unlocking your BlackBerry allows you to use it on a different network.

From the BlackBerry home screen, select Options > Device > Advanced System Settings > SIM Card. Once the SIM Card menu is open, you will now need to type mepd on your keyboard. Note that these letters will not appear on your screen as you type them. However, once you’ve entered all four letters, the menu should change. The new menu should list whether your handset has one of the following locks on it:

  • Network Lock (NCK)
  • Network Subset Lock (SCK)
  • Service Provider Lock (SPCK)
  • Corporate Lock

If your BlackBerry is unlocked, all of these items will read as “Disabled”. If your BlackBerry is locked to a certain network, it will say “Active” next to the Network Lock menu item. Some networks may also apply a network subset lock or a service provider lock to your device.

How do I obtain the IMEI number from my BlackBerry?

In order to unlock your BlackBerry, you’ll need to find out the IMEI number of your device. Your IMEI number is a 15-digit code which uniquely identifies your BlackBerry handset. When unlocking your BlackBerry device, you should provide your IMEI number to your mobile operator when prompted.

There are three ways of finding out the IMEI number of your BlackBerry handset:

  • Open the dialler and enter *#06# (star hash zero six hash). The IMEI number of your BlackBerry device should pop up in a new window.
  • On the BlackBerry home screen, select the “Options” item. Select Device > Device and Status Information. The IMEI number of your BlackBerry should appear as one of the items on the display.
  • The IMEI number of BlackBerry devices is also printed in a sticker located underneath the battery.

How can I unlock my BlackBerry from O2?

For O2 Pay Monthly and O2 Business customers, your BlackBerry can be unlocked free of charge at any time. Whilst you’ll still need to honour the rest of your contract (i.e. you’ll need to keep your contract for at least the 24 months you signed up for), unlocking your phone will free it up to be used on a different network at home or abroad.

For O2 Pay & Go customers, BlackBerry devices can be unlocked 12 months after purchase. There is a charge of £15 which will be deducted from your Pay & Go account balance.

To request a BlackBerry unlock, please use the online form on O2’s website.

How can I unlock my BlackBerry from Orange?

Orange can unlock your BlackBerry devices providing you’ve held it for at least 3 months. There is an “administration fee” of £20.42 for this service. For Pay Monthly customers, this will be added to your next monthly bill. For Pay As You Go customers, this will be deducted from your Pay As You Go airtime balance.

To begin the unlocking process, you’ll need to get in touch with Orange Customer Services. Pay Monthly customers should dial 150 on their handset whereas Pay As You Go customers should dial 450. Please make sure you’ve got your IMEI number to hand (see instructions above) – you’ll need to provide your IMEI number over the phone before Orange can process your unlocking request.

If you’ve had any experiences unlocking a BlackBerry device from Orange (positive or negative), please drop us a comment below and let us know how you got on!

How can I unlock my BlackBerry from Three?

Three can unlock your BlackBerry for the one-off charge of £15.32. This will be charged to your debit card or credit card so you’ll need to have it to hand when calling Three customer services. Pay Monthly customers must have held their device for at least 30 days and have paid their first bill whereas Pay As You Go customers can unlock their BlackBerry at any time.

You can call Three customer services on 333 from your handset or 0843 373 3333 from a landline. We’d love to hear about your experiences with unlocking a BlackBerry from Three: please drop us a comment below and let us know whether it worked for you.

How can I unlock my BlackBerry from T-Mobile?

According to T-Mobile, you can unlock your handset by contacting their customer services team. Other than that, information is fairly low on the ground regarding how much it costs to unlock a BlackBerry device and how long it will take. If you’ve had experiences unlocking a BlackBerry from T-Mobile, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

How can I unlock my BlackBerry from Vodafone?

Vodafone Pay Monthly customers can obtain a free unlock code from Vodafone by submitting their details on this online form. The turn-around time for this is 48 hours.

Vodafone Pay As You Go customers can obtain an unlock code for their BlackBerry by contacting Vodafone Customer Services. There is a charge of £19.99 from your airtime credit for this service. This charge is waived for customers who have owned their phone for more than 12 months. If you are no longer an active customer on Vodafone, you will need to grab a free Pay As You Go SIM card from them online first.

More information is available on the Vodafone website.

I’ve received an unlocking code (Network MEP Code) from my network. How do I enter it?

The easiest way to enter your unlocking code is simply to insert a new SIM card from another network. When the device is next turned on, you should receive the prompt, “Your current SIM card requires an unlock code. Would you like to unlock it?”. Select YES and enter your unlocking code. If you need access to a SIM card from another network, you can grab a free Pay As You Go SIM card for this purpose.

If you don’t have access to a SIM card from a different network, it is possible to input your unlocking code manually:

  1. Start off by disabling all network connections on your BlackBerry. From the main screen, select ‘Manage Connections’ followed by ‘Turn All Connections Off’.
  2. On the main screen, select Options > Device > Advanced System Settings > SIM Card. You will now need to enter mepd on the BlackBerry keyboard. Note that these letters do not appear on the screen as you type them – however the menu will change once you’ve finished typing it.
  3. Type mep2 on the keyboard. This will bring up a dialog asking you to enter your unlocking code. After entering your unlocking code here, your BlackBerry should be unlocked.
  4. Reboot your device and re-enable network connections.

Is it possible to unlock a BlackBerry for free?

There are various websites and software applications available on the internet which can unlock your BlackBerry for free. These services can unlock your handset without the involvement of your mobile operator. These third-party unlocking services ask you to provide the IMEI number and the MEP ID number of your device and will attempt to calculate the relevant unlocking code for your handset. The MEP ID number differs from your network unlock code (Network MEP Code) and must be obtained using computer software or through the handset’s engineering menus.

Ken’s Tech Tips recommends great caution whenever using these unofficial unlocking services. Some of these websites could harvest your e-mail address for spam. Any software applications that you download could also potentially harbour malware such as viruses, worms and trojans.

Whenever possible, we recommend unlocking your phone through official channels (i.e. your mobile operator). This is the safest and the most reliable method of unlocking. Furthermore, the cost is reasonable and no more than £20. We would also argue that this is the most ethical way to unlock your BlackBerry. As your mobile operator originally subsidised the cost of your BlackBerry (the locking process stops you from using a handset that they subsidised on a different network), it would only seem fair that there should be a small payment to cover their subsidy when you decide to unlock it.

Which BlackBerry devices can be unlocked using the method above?

The unlocking methods described in this article should work with all BlackBerry handsets sold in the UK. This includes BlackBerry Curve, BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Torch handsets.

I’ve been unable to get online since unlocking my BlackBerry. Why?

If you’ve unlocked your BlackBerry and switched to another mobile network, you may receive the following error message: “The PIN and IMEI are already in use”. This error message means that your BlackBerry device is still associated with an account on your old mobile phone network. You can resolve this error by getting in touch with your old mobile network and asking them to disassociate your IMEI and BlackBerry PIN from their service. Once they’ve done this, you should be able to register your handset on a new mobile network.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 6 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Rita said:

    Hello Ken,
    Your reply is very helpful and your websites are amazing. I now understand a lot more on the phone am using.
    Thanks again

  2. Martin Siry said:

    Hi, i was wondering to unlock my device by myself, still nothing, so, never buy from third person this phones, the best way is to buy orange sim and use, i am using my Torch as player because it is very good and loud with my mid end Pioneer headphones.

  3. Catherine Sanders said:

    I cannot for love or money find anyone to help me. I was a very happy Orange customer and equally happy with my BB Curve. A couple of month ago in contacted Orange to change my package. I was sent a EE SIM card to insert into my BB and the guy on the phone had failed to tell me that it would not work in my BB unless it was unlocked. Loads of calls followed and horrible problems, until the phone was finally unlocked. All was well for 10 hours when somehow EE managed to obliterate all my emails! When I contacted EE they told my as I was now an EE customer I could no longer use my BB. I ought a Samsung Young2 and guess what I HATE THAT PHONE!!!!!! I want to be able to use my BB!!! Impossible to contact Blackberry!!!! CAN ANYONE HELP?!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Catherine,
      Thanks for your comment. For BlackBerry e-mail and BBM to work a BlackBerry Curve or other devices running BlackBerry OS 7 or earlier, you’ll need a tariff with the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS). Unfortunately, when EE upgraded you to a new tariff with the Galaxy Young2, they gave you a tariff without the BlackBerry Internet Service. This explains why e-mail and other services are no longer working on the BlackBerry Curve.
      Unfortunately, the only way of getting these services back is to choose a tariff with the BlackBerry Internet Service. You could also try upgrading to a BlackBerry 10 smartphone (e.g. the BlackBerry Q5): this will have BlackBerry e-mail without you needing a special tariff. Unfortunately, though, neither solution is likely to get your old e-mails back.
      Sorry for the bad news 🙁

  4. Charles said:

    Hi. On your web page it says Orange will provide an unlock code if your phone has been associated with your account for 3 months. I bought my BB phone from a 3rd party pre-locked to Orange (after my contract phone got damaged), and despite having been with Orange for several years, and having paid up my contract in full, was informed by them they would not provide an unlock code (for £20.42) until my phone has been associated with my account for SIX months. Orange have been extremely unhelpful and I am pleased to be ending my contract with them. I would not return due to the inferior quality of Orange customer services, which I value highly.

  5. Tony said:

    Hi There,

    I have recently tried to check and unlock my Blackberry by contacting Orange (having found a number that works).

    I asked if they could tell me if it was locked and if they could unlock it (I have my IMEI number).

    Orange told me that since I brought it through a third party – I would have to contact them – as they would have locked it.

    Since reading your article – I now see that I can check the locked status myself -but it still leaves Orange distancing themselves from the issue of unlocking.

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